On Saturday, May 6, the Burke Virginia Railway Express parking lot was transformed into a bustling market, as the Burke Farmer's Market opened for the 2006 season.
Customers were plentiful, checking out selections of homemade cookies and cheese, produce and specialty meats. The warm sun shining down on the Burke Farmer’s Market made for a busy grand opening.
“The food is fresh, and it [shopping at a farmer’s market] seems novel, interesting and old-fashioned,” said Ann Angelo, a shopper from King’s Park. “It’s more fun than going to the supermarket.”
One vendor enticed passersby with homemade cookies and smiles. Susan Yamamoto, founder of Susie’s Cookies, sold some non-traditional cookies made from family recipes and hand-chopped ingredients. Her Swedish Fruit Drop cookies, with dates, pecans, candied pineapples and cherries, almonds, cinnamon and Brazil nuts, are her self-proclaimed favorite. She said the recipe comes from her Swedish ancestors, and she's been hand-chopping the ingredients since her childhood.
Yamamoto said she recently started the cookie company because she loves making cookies, and thought it would make for a nice business.
“Life is too short to not be doing what you enjoy,” said Yamamoto.
Her cookies were not jumbo-sized or overly sweet, something Yamamoto said is special to her home-made treats.
“I don’t believe in super-sizing,” she said. “You only need a little bit of sweets.”
FARTHER DOWN the row of vendors, another tent was a carbohydrate lover's delight. Jimmy Crain was selling freshly baked breads from The Bread Ovens at Quail Creek Farm. Quail Creek’s baker, Wes Lanham, sent Crain to the market with a spread of scones, muffins and breads, tempting many shoppers. The focaccia with artichokes, onion and sun-dried tomatoes was a big hit, along with the Italian Rustic Potato Bread and French Brioche.
Just across the way from the bread man was its perfect counterpart, the cheese tent. Dairy farmers Chester and Carol Beahm, of the Fields of Grace Farm, had everything from Camembert to smoked gouda. Elaine Kramer, one of the Beahm’s frequent customers, said she can’t get enough of the farm's wonderfully fresh and flavorful cheese.
“The love they put into their products reflects in the flavor,” said Kramer, a Fairfax Station resident. “It’s soulful.”
Carol Beahm said the couple started making cheese because of the state of the dairy market. They began using the farm’s milk to make cheese about a year ago, and she said it has helped business pick up again.
“It’s very hard on dairy farmers right now,” said Carol Beahm. “We needed to add value to the product.”
Some of the more unusual flavors were horseradish cheddar and caraway cheddar. More traditional cheeses like gouda and sharp cheddar were available, but Kramer said the best of all is the Beahms’ Camembert cheese, a creamy cheese similar to Brie.
Another eclectic offering was the meat tent. Cibollero Meats, of Cibola Farms in Culpeper, Va., had coolers set up inside its tent, each stocked with non-traditional meats. They had everything from grass range turkey to goat and buffalo meats.
To round off all of the food groups, the market had an abundance of fruits and vegetables to offer its shoppers. Tomatoes, rhubarb, radishes, asparagus, spinach, mixed greens, squash, strawberries and herbs could be found throughout the market. Flowers and plants were plentiful too, as the Burke Farmer’s Market seemed to cover all realms of freshly grown or homemade products.
Like all of the county's farmer's markets, the Burke market had Master Gardeners on hand to give plant and gardening advice, and also help people identify bacteria or diseases in their gardens. This market, according to Fairfax County Master Gardener Lynn James, has so much variety and is really popular in the community.
“This market is highly touted in the Master Gardener Program,” said Lynn James, Fairfax County Master Gardener.